Queen of the Universe Judge Michelle Visage Speaks to John-Paul Ricchio
She's a platinum-selling recording artist, three-time Emmy-winning producer, judge of RuPaul's Drag Race and now a a member of the "Pop Diva Panel" of judges alongside Vanessa Williams on Queen on the Universe. This new series follows the world's most talented drag queens as they battle it out for global domination, and countries go head to head spotlighting their top talent as they debut a new musical performance in front of a live audience. Here's my one-on-one interview with the gorgeous Michelle. (Scroll down past the video for the full transcript!) Enjoy, JP xo
John-Paul Ricchio: My name is JP Ricchio and I'm from The Kit in Toronto. Hello, Michelle. Congratulations on Queen of the Universe. What drew you to this fantastic, fantastic project?
Michelle Visage: Well, first of all, thank you, JP, lovely to meet you. I think the obvious drew me to this incredible project. Queen of the Universe, just the title alone, but then they had me at Drag Queens and then they said a singing competition, how could one say no to that? I mean it's two of my most favourite things in life combined in one and it's such a masterpiece. It's produced so beautifully, the production value is over the top, it makes every other singing competition looks just teeny tiny. It's so amazing.
John-Paul Ricchio: I agree with you, I was floored by it. And you, that high pull, I was just obsessed, that was epic! You are the queen and the goddess, I'm obsessed.
Michelle Visage: Ah, thank you.
John-Paul Ricchio: I'm so proud of everything that you have contributed to making and putting the art of drag into the mainstream market, you should be so proud of yourself, and that comes from my heart. I'm so proud of what you have contributed to the world, seriously.
Michelle Visage: Thank you.
John-Paul Ricchio: You're very welcome. So we all know that success does not happen overnight and you've worked very, very hard to get to where you are. And I'd like to know what kind of advice did you give to these Queens, on Queen of the Universe?
Michelle Visage: I think the advice I give is-- anytime I judge anybody, wherever I am, whether it's RuPaul's Drag Race, Ireland's Got Talent, wherever I'm judging, even with my own children, the world is not an easy place, so my advice seems like it's tough love but the world is tough love, that's my point. You can't just out in the world and expect Skittles and rainbows to come raining down on you, especially as a queer performer, that's not going to happen. So I want them to hear the truth and sometimes the truth hurts, but if you listen to what somebody's saying to you, I say to my child, this isn't working for you, let's find out why or what does work for you or how we could make it better. So for me, that's the kind of advice I gave to these kids, maybe tonight wasn't your best night, so how can we make it better? Let's do this, this and this for the next week, if you're lucky enough to get through, and when they use it and they implement it, it's like a light bulb turns on. That's my goal every time I judge on any television show. So that's what I try to do, that's what I bring to Queen of the Universe. And will they use what I tell them? Well, we'll have to wait and see!
John-Paul Ricchio: So, critique me. How do I look tonight?
Michelle Visage: You know, the first thing I see about you is those gorgeous cheekbones, absolutely beautiful. What do you have green on your lap?
John-Paul Ricchio: This is a very large pashmina--
Michelle Visage: Oh, you are fabulous, JP! You have this beautiful black and white suit on with this beautiful collar on the shirt, with the pussy bow... and then a gorgeous green pashmina shawl, I mean you look fabulous, you look rich!
John-Paul Ricchio: Oh my god, you're hysterical, thank you, I've always wanted to ask you that. So, back to the competition, how was the Canadian Queen? As a Canadian outlet, I'm very proud to have a Canadian representative on your show. How did the Canadian Queen compare to the others?
Michelle Visage: Listen, I love Canada. I grew up going to Niagara Falls for a vacation because it was right up from New Jersey, you could just drive there. Canada is such an amazing country and Canada, especially in the drag community, has its quirks. Canadian drag is very quirky but it's also very regional, just like the States. Like drag in New York is different to drag in Los Angeles, it's different to drag in Ohio, it's just the way that it is. So, our Canadian entrant is an amazing talent who is quirky and fun and representing Canada beautifully.
John-Paul Ricchio: I love that. What was it like working with Michelle Williams and Leona Lewis and Trixie and her eyeliner?
Michelle Visage: Vanessa Williams was, is a personal friend of mine, so I've known her for a while, so it was great having a friend on the panel already. And then they said Trixie was joining and I was like, yes! Trixie and I have a history, I've judge her quite a few, many times and I just love her for what she is and all that white eyeliner. And Leona who is just-- I call her the good girl of the group, of the group of bad girls-- she is a sweetheart. It was my first time meeting her. But we all got along and a lot of times on these panel shows, you see panellists that just don't get along and there's no chemistry, you can't really force chemistry, it just has to happen and I think we had a lot of it. And the most important thing was we had fun, this show is so much fun because the talent is extraordinary.
John-Paul Ricchio: Amazing. It brought me a lot of joy watching the first episode, I'm not going to lie, I was blown away. I'd like to ask you, you, as an artist in your own right, you're in Seduction, you are the queen, so a singer, a huge part of the competition is singing. what are you looking for with these contestants and their performing skills?
Michelle Visage: So, it's not a huge part, it is THE part, this is a singing competition, first and foremost. It's about the voice and it's about the performance. Drag is back seat for me. You have to be a good drag queen, you can't be a Halloween kind of frat boy joke, you need to be able to be a drag performer and your drag can be improved, but the vocals are the vocals. So it's all about the way they sound and the performance of it all. And then we can get a little bit into the drag and talk about it and say these are things that you can change to make it a little bit better, but for me it's about those vocals, can you deliver those vocals. And honey, they can. People are going to be blown away by the voices they hear.
John-Paul Ricchio: Fantastic. I am a beauty and fashion expert from Toronto and what I'd like you to do now, is I'd like you to introduce yourself and then I'd like you to say, if you're comfortable, I'm Michelle Visage and this is what's in my kit. And then I'd love for you to just name three or four products that you just love and can't live without, and why.
Michelle Visage: I don't know if I'm allowed to do that. Am I allowed to do that, you guys?
John-Paul Ricchio: You don't have to mention a brand, you can just say lipstick, powder--
Michelle Visage: That I can do, that I can do.
John-Paul Ricchio: Okay. Whenever you're ready.
Michelle Visage: Hey! It's Michelle Visage, I'm a judge on Queen of the Universe, and this is what's in my kit. Now, I cannot live without lip plumper. I think a lot of people will run for injections and do stuff like that [7:22 - video/audio distortion/audio and viz out of sync]. If there's a new technique, I'm going to try it. Can't live without that. Can't live without a good mascara, not ever waterproof because it rips your eyelashes out. And the blackest of black liquid eyeliners, not felt tip pencils but liquid with a brush. Those are things I cannot live without. And a nail file.
John-Paul Ricchio:Michelle, we are done, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time. We seriously love you.
Michelle Visage: Thank you, JP, I know you're going to love the show, thank you so much for talking to me. Bye, doll!
John-Paul Ricchio: Bye, darling!